In the middle of a successful investment banking career, the lure of hockey kept tugging at Tom Moro.
He was already a regular in goalie pads at Johnny’s IceHouse at 1350 W. Madison St. — the center of Chicago’s hockey scene — so he bought it, then helped turn it into a major hub for young players across the Chicago area.
“Tom loved bringing people together and connecting them over their shared love for the sport and gave selflessly to grow the game in Chicago,” staffers at the rink said in a statement.
The 49-year-old hockey devotee died unexpectedly last month of a heart ailment.
Moro had been a financial adviser and started his own hedge fund before he bought the rink, said his general manager, Pete Johnson. He’d been a customer on the ice previously.
Moro played hockey all his life — as a kid growing up in south suburban Homewood, then a little at Mankato State University in Minnesota and later in some recreational leagues.
After earning a master’s degree in economics from Eastern Illinois University, Moro moved with his wife Lisa to Chicago and got his start in investment banking, all the while playing goalie in a men’s league at Johnny’s.
Following his love for hockey, the couple bought the IceHouse around 2003, and later opened Johnny’s West a mile and a half down the same street.
He more than tripled business at Johnny’s, which now has more than 300 families in the Jets youth hockey club, and 145 men’s league teams.
When he acquired the land to build Johnny’s West in 2009, Moro told the Chicago Sun-Times the Blackhawks’ resurgence had triggered an uptick in interest in hockey.
“We’re at full capacity. This expansion is really to satisfy that continued growth,” he said then.
The new digs also satisified his beloved Chicago Blackhawks. The team practiced at Johnny’s West for eight years, a stretch that included their three Stanley Cup wins.
“A great partner and friend to the Chicago Blackhawks, Tom will be remembered across our organization as one of the greatest advocates for youth hockey players and our local community at large,” the team said in a statement. “He had a tremendous passion for growing this game we all love, and we will forever appreciate having the opportunity to work with him for many years.”
After skates, Moro liked to hang out at Viaggio, an Italian restaurant next door on West Madison. When Moro brought his staff over there for dinner, he always paid, Johnson said.
“If you were his friend, he took care of you like a brother,” Johnson said.
On one occasion, half a dozen Chicago police recruits were having lunch there and Moro picked up the tab.
“Thanks for all you guys do,” Moro told them.
Dave Flanzbaum, owner of Viaggio, called Moro a “great guy.” The restaurateur recalled a conversation about two years ago in which Flanzbaum asked him why, with prices in the West Loop skyrocketing, Moro hadn’t sold his property to a developer.
“‘Dave, you’re right. I’ve been offered crazy amounts of money, but I don’t want to retire,'” Flanzbaum recalled Moro saying. “‘I have so many kids who skate here. It’s just such an important part of [my] life and for the area.”
Rink staffers called Moro the “heart and soul” of Johnny’s IceHouse; he was still a league regular there, donning goalie pads most Thursdays.
He also enjoyed golfing, traveling, and watching his son Ben play hockey and his daughter Kate run cross-country, according to a family obituary.
In addition to his children and wife of 22 years, Moro is survived by siblings Michael Moro, John Moro and Margie Jostes; eight nieces and nephews and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.
Services have been held. In lieu of flowers, his family asked that donations be made in his name to Cubs Charities or the Chicago Blackhawks Foundation.